Communism is back in fashion. But what are Communist countries really like?
BY PETER DE LAUW • JULY 9
Do you like it when you are given an extra national holiday? Do you enjoy receiving a pension? Do you enjoy the subsidies that your local sports club is being conferred by your beloved administration? Do you like cheap or free doctor’s visits?
Most people do. But we have to be careful what we wish for, because each time the government “gives” you something, the government gets … bigger.
Most people vote for the political parties that promise them social benefits. Therefore, almost all parties do. And once those benefits have been bestowed, they can never be taken away for risk of losing the next election. Hence, one can only add new benefits. This bloating of the government always, inevitably, ultimately leads to dictatorship.
Too few today believe that, because few in America have had any personal experience with communism. But I am an eyewitness. While I did not grow up in a Communist country, I’ve visited many in various capacities. Growing up in Europe, I visited Communist Czechoslovakia on a school trip, and later I visited Poland, Russia, East-Germany (mainly Thuringia and Mecklenburg-West Pomerania), and I lived in Hungary for about two years.
Just a short trip tells you much about the system of government the left now wants to bring to the United States of America.
A World Without Color
On our school trip to Czechoslovakia, it took us two hours to get into the country—and five hours to get out. Our bus was searched by gruff-looking border guards. They inspected our paperwork, the money we had in our wallets, our luggage, the engine, every crevice of the vehicle.
While we were waiting in the bus, we heard shouting in the woods about 150 yards away. We heard people running and then shots. And then there was silence.
That is how Communist countries deal with their own people. Their borders are not only designed to keep enemies out, but mainly to keep their own populace in.
It was hard to find friendly people. Most were only friendly when they were drunk. Alcohol was cheaper than bottled water. Most people distilled their own alcohol from plums or berries, which was probably healthier than the rusty-looking water.
For seven consecutive days, we ate cooked ham with sour cream and soggy, oil-drenched chips. That was the “meal of the week” for all restaurants in the whole country—as set by the government.
If you wanted to buy food in the shop, you couldn’t because the shelves were always empty. Every morning, people were standing in line for hours to buy basic items like bread and milk.
With the state struggling to produce enough of the essentials, there was no room for luxuries. It was life without color—literally. The Communist Party had no money for paint and nobody was producing it. All buildings were gray or dark gray, like a scene from a black-and-white movie.
All buildings looked the same: concrete blocks with inadequate insulation. You could constantly hear fighting and shouting of others in the building.
As a tourist, you were not allowed to walk anywhere without being accompanied by a guide.
But in all that, Czechoslovakia had no unemployment. Each and every citizen was an official of the public sector. Everybody received a salary.
Is this a positive thing, though? With a guaranteed job, and no prospect of a pay raise, why would you do your best? Why would you even care? When visiting a restaurant in Czechoslovakia, service was hard to come by.
But Czechoslovakia isn’t the only country that suffers in this way.
The picture is very much the same in Russia. When I took a trip to St. Petersburg, one woman recounted to me what it was like to live there: “Life in Russia is always hard. There is no joy in the streets and there is no joy in the houses. You can always hear bickering and fighting in one of the flats on your apartment block.”
The problems of communism go far deeper than merely a lack of paint, good customer service or adequate housing. A government that controls everything has tremendous power.
The House of Terror
The government controls every aspect of a child’s education. Starting at a very young age, children are taught Communist doctrine. They are taught not to honor their parents, but to honor the party and its president. Parents cannot trust their own children, and nobody can trust his neighbor. Everybody is a potential spy. And the walls are so thin you can easily overhear what your neighbors are saying.
On a trip to Budapest, Hungary, I visited the so-called “House of Terror.” This building was the headquarters of the Hungarian secret police under the Communist regime. It is now a museum displaying the cruelties the party committed to break the will of its citizens.
It is sobering to see the many torture rooms. One such room consists of only a door with one foot of space behind it. You cannot sit nor bend your knees. After three days in such a room you become mad.
I’ve seen the electric shock equipment that was used to extract information from “perpetrators” while they were being interrogated.
It is gruesome to witness what “loving” governments are willing to do to their subjects in order to remain in power.
You might be thinking, Surely, though, things in America could not get so bad.
A Slippery Slope
Again, most people vote for the parties that promise them social benefits. In a bid to win the votes of the people, these governments continue to add more benefits, which means the government always gets bigger.
All this welfare distribution has to be organized somehow. How do governments ensure fair, accurate and timely redistribution of national wealth? Put simply, they set up a department overlooking the handouts. Those departments are staffed with a department head, secretaries, assistants and administrative clerks. All of which want to cling on to their precious jobs. A few years later a different administration will come along that wants to do things “differently,” thereby creating a new department but desisting from dissolving the old department. In the United States, for example, two agencies are tasked with food inspections. The Food and Drug Administration inspects shelled eggs, while the Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service inspects liquid, frozen and dehydrated eggs (The Heritage Foundation, Nov 21, 2017).
Another reason departments never shrink or disappear is that they provide handy “rewards” for the nation’s leaders to give their friends and allies, granting them or their relatives positions of power and steady income at those taxpayer-supported departments.
Again, the government gets bigger.
And then there is the question of how to organize all this welfare distribution. Who decides what is fair, accurate and timely? Who sets the rules?
In our Western democracies the rules are set by elected governments, administrations and parliaments. Political candidates campaign on a set of promises, and most often the candidate or party with the most appealing promises wins the election and can determine the rules during their tenure. In theory, the “most appealing” promises revolve around cutting the cost of government, downsizing administrative departments, and decreasing governmental involvement in our daily lives. Sadly, though, that is only in theory. Implementing those promises would inevitably bring about the laying off of staff and the reduction of public services, with the latter most probably resulting in a lower score at the ballot box.
Thus, greed-driven political candidates appeal to voters equally led by greed.
The inescapable consequence is an increasing number of people receiving “social benefits” and an increasing number of people employed by the government. So dependence on government money continues to grow, putting more and more power in the hands of a select government elite.
Coronavirus countermeasures have led to more than half of British adults being employed by the government in one form or another, as the Telegraph reported in May. The British public sector employs more than 5 million people out of a total workforce of 32.9 million, according to the United Kingdom government’s website.
Another consequence of more people receiving handouts is a diminishing incentive for people to keep themselves employable. Human nature tends to be drawn to the path of least resistance. If it is easy to earn money without investing any effort, human nature will compel us to become complacent, negligent and lazy.
For instance, in the UK, under the current covid-19 furlough scheme, employees can be paid up to 80 percent of their salary just for staying at home. Now that businesses are coming out of lockdown, they find themselves struggling to bring their staff back to work and bring their businesses to pre-lockdown productivity levels. In the United States, 32 percent of independent business owners said they had job openings they couldn’t fill. Because the Cares Act gives unemployed Americans a $600-a-week bonus, most in that position are actually better off not working.
The next phase of this logical downspiral is the economic backlash. A drop in productivity brings about a drop in the nation’s wealth and tax revenue. Often the government tries to stimulate the economy by selling national commodities like oil, metals or minerals, or by borrowing and spending more money, which bloats the government further.
Meanwhile, the lack of motivation in the workforce and the resulting lack of innovation in areas like marketing and technology, causes businesses to dwindle and wither.
And once again, the government has to step in, bail out the bleeding businesses, and take them under its wings, ultimately completely owning and controlling them. And those bailed-out companies become yet another welcome asset to be distributed among the friends and allies of the ones in power.
All those handouts in the hands of a few happy benefactors make fertile ground for corruption. When too many people are dependent on the assets owned by a small number of people in charge, the system becomes massively prone to favoritism, clientelism and nepotism, and ultimately sheer arbitrariness. Criticism increasingly becomes less tolerated, initially suppressed under the guise of law and order in times of crisis, later blatantly and ruthlessly crushed.
As the economic outlook continues to deteriorate and people start to murmur and revolt, the leader resorts to censorship, oppression and the reign of terror.
Socialism always leads to communism. And it always, inevitably, ultimately leads to dictatorship.
A Warning on America’s Doorstep
A prime example in recent history is Venezuela. Up until the 1980s, Venezuela was the richest country in Latin America, measured in dollars per capita. With the discovery of oil in its national soil in 1922, the economy started surging. The affluent availability of oil allowed its leaders to steer a more left-leaning course. With oil prices at about $100 per barrel, it was easy to buy the goodwill of the population without having to fundamentally diversify the economy.
In the 1970s, then President Carlos Andrés Pérez nationalized the iron, steel and petroleum industry, which allowed him to implement a plethora of state-subsidized programs.
But since the 1980s, with the drop of oil prices to about $30 per barrel, the flaws in its political and economic system became apparent. With an economy that was disproportionally based on oil, people started to suffer; they began crying for change and elected Hugo Chávez as president.
What did Chávez promise and deliver? More socialism—more welfare programs for health care, food, scholarships, etc, etc—all paid for with money that came gushing out of the country’s generous soil, deepening the government’s dependence on oil and the people’s dependence on the government.
Today, the country cannot even supply its needs for the most basic products such as milk, meat, coffee, rice, oil, flour, butter, toilet paper, personal hygiene products and medicines. In a state-controlled economy there is no incentive for people to innovate, to diversify, to take risks, to develop themselves into versatile employees or ambitious businessmen. The result is a country on the brink of death.
And it always, inevitably, ultimately leads to dictatorship.
The Human Rights Watch homepage on Venezuela states:
The accumulation of power in the executive branch that began during the presidency of Hugo Chávez has enabled Venezuelan authorities to intimidate, censor and punish its critics. A brutal crackdown on dissent that intensified since 2014 has led to the arbitrary prosecution of political opponents, dozens of killings, thousands of arrests, and abuses against detainees that in some cases amount to torture.
Amnesty International’s Venezuela page is equally horrific:
Venezuela continued to experience an unprecedented human rights crisis. Extrajudicial executions, arbitrary detentions, excessive use of force, and unlawful killings by the security forces continued as part of a policy of repression to silence dissent.
Communisms body count in the 20th century is estimated to be around 150 million. For some, that means little more than a number; but beyond the sheer size of the number there lies excruciating suffering and unbearable pain.
For the most part, Communist countries look dull, dilapidated and gray. Paint, timber and tools are luxury goods. Nobody is producing. Everybody is getting handouts, so why bother to be productive, let alone excel.
Everybody is an enemy. The government is using its useful idiots as spies all over the country.
Consider living under a regime that owns all means of production, owns your child rearing, owns your education, and in part even owns your thoughts since you can never freely express them in fear of being snitched on by one of your neighbors, friends or even family members.
Communist countries need borders—not to protect them against people coming in but against their own population getting out. That fact alone proves the wretchedness of such a system.
And then there is the unspeakable agony of reeducation camps and torture dungeons, where disobedient subordinates are beaten, scourged, flailed, skinned and left to die in utter darkness and grueling solitude.
And all this because flawed people love to vote for flawed people who promise them social benefits, bestowed on them by an ever swelling, power-hungry, voracious government that, with each election, presents itself as an angel of light.
Most people don’t want to be responsible and accountable for their own well-being. They shun the law of cause and effect and let the government deal with the effects.
The result, as the 6,000-year history of man’s civilization has proved time and again, is dictatorship and death.
Of course, capitalist countries are not perfect. And with many in America—the world’s largest beacon of capitalism—embracing socialism, it’s not clear how much longer they will last.
Many who support communism have good intentions. They see genuine problems in the world and want to fix them. But communism is not the solution.
“Communism does offer a program to change the world,” wrote Herbert W. Armstrong. “They know it needs changing. Communism is the wrong way to change it—but they don’t see that.”
There is a solution, and it’s found in the Bible, not Communist Manifesto. It’s a solution that involves personal responsibility, strong families and hard work. Communism pushes society in the opposite direction, and thus makes things worse. You can learn more about this solution in our free booklet The Wonderful World Tomorrow—What It Will Be Like.